By Brandon Card
Every summer the Bassmaster Elite Series heads north, and that means big waves and big smallmouth. It is a fun way to fish but it also takes additional preparation to make sure my boat and the gear I use to tackle those big bronzebacks give me the best possible chance at success. Here are a few things I do to make sure all of my equipment is ready for the big water.
First, I make sure my Bass Cat is ready to handle the big water. I always check the bolts on my transom and then where my Suzuki connects to my Bob’s Machine Shop jack plate. I do this before I head up North and then do it every single day during pre-fish and the tournament. Checking the bolts is something that many anglers neglect to do, and in my opinion, they are just asking for trouble.
The second thing I do is make sure my bilge is working properly. I will test both the manual and auto settings to make sure it is good to go in the event I get any water in the boat. Some anglers even bring an extra manual bilge pump which is a great way to make sure you are ready in case you take on a significant amount of water.
I make sure I have livewell overflow plugs. These are simple rubber cone-shaped items I buy at the hardware store, and I use them to plug the overflow valve in the livewell. You would be amazed how much water can splash out during a long ride in rough water. I have learned the hard way, having to stop and refill the livewells for my fish in big waves. Not only is stopping in big water a little dangerous, but it also leads to a lot of wasted time during a tournament day.
Prepare your boat and make sure you focus on safety: this is one of the most important things about fishing big bodies of water.
Fishing in Big Water
The way I approach fishing in big waters is relatively simple, especially when it comes to smallmouth. A drop-shot and tube are two of the most effective and efficient ways to fish in rough water conditions.
I like to drop-shot with a Yamamoto Shad Shape worm and prefer a 7’ medium Abu Garcia Villain 2.0 rod. I use a Revo MGX Size 30 reel and spool it up with 10-pound Duel Hardcore braid with an 8lb Yo-Zuri TopKnot fluorocarbon leader.
I rig my Shad Shape worm on a #1 Gamakatsu Split Shot/Drop-Shot hook and bring plenty of heavy drop-shot weights. I carry everything from 3/8 ounces and up. Having a heavy drop-shot weight will keep the worm close to the bottom and in front of smallmouth in big wind.
The other technique that always produces in big water events for me is a tube. I use the same gear and bring both 3” and 4” tubes with me. Like heavy drop-shot weights, I carry plenty of 3/8 oz. to 3/4 oz. tube heads to keep my tube on the bottom.
I also keep a drift sock with me to help slow me down and allow me to fish more effectively. Lakes are the only place I would use a drift sock. I never use them on rivers like the St. Lawrence, because it they can speed up your drift.
Fishing big bodies of water for smallmouth is something I look forward to every year. The fishing can be excellent and fighting a fat smallmouth in big waves gets my blood pumping. The most important thing to remember is to make sure your boat is ready, and you stay safe when on the big water.